The big, glitzy world of Bollywood is gradually being forced to lend a ear to a new crop of film-makers who will stop at nothing to get their voices heard. With some having tasted success like Anand Gandhi with Ship of Theseus or closer home, Pawan Kumar with Lucia, independent cinema is becoming a force to reckon with. So much so, they are finding support from big filmmakers like Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap and Kiran Rao who enable a wider audience for smaller productions.
Bangalorean Saad Khan who has made a full length Hindi thriller Station feels every bit connected to and a part of the growing tribe of indie filmmakers. “One can’t put a price on it (the film) or compare the works and this is what makes an independent filmmaker interesting and unique. This is why independent films are like an art form,” he says. His short film Another Kind of Black was screened at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.
Srinivas Sunderrajan, who has The Untitled Karthik Krishnan Project and Greater Elephant to his credit, has a different opinion. “Lately, I feel a bit disconnected with independent cinema in India because there is no more an ‘independent’ scene. What you see is a less glorified version of mainstream cinema but a glossy one nonetheless. I don’t see anything in it for me now,” says the Mumbai-based filmmaker.
Independent filmmaking, however exciting and liberating, comes with many challenges. “It was the most challenging experience of my life, but with my producer Sumit Ghosh by my side, it became an enriching process. There were many passionately creative people who worked on Station and each of them brought an amazing human aspect to the film which has made it an independent film that a lot of moviegoers are talking about. As a person, I haven’t changed, I just want to keep learning every step of the way. Station is like me completing 10th grade, and now I have a lot more to look forward to because of this opportunity,” says Saad.
For Srinivas, film making has been a learning experience. “You can say that I’ve evolved to the next level of understanding how things work, like how creative and business models never go hand in hand. It has also helped me understand human beings better, in terms of dealing with people whilst working under stressful conditions,” says Srinivas, whose second film Greater Elephant, was an eloquent, experimental film with a simple message about life.
With more indie filmmakers coming forward, the industry will have to change its ways. “I’d like producers and filmmakers to invest in scripts and talent that will touch audiences who want to take something back after watching a film. It can be a social message, a filmmaking style or a storytelling method,” says Saad, who is currently busy with live comedy shows titled The Improv, which he hosts and directs.
“Frankly, I would just like it to revert to its days of anonymity and mystery; having the power to unsettle the prevalent film-industry system - purely by our creative output,” says Srinivas, adding. “Making my films wasn’t that big a challenge compared to what I had to do to complete it. My guerrilla techniques of film-making surely worked in getting what I wanted, but the system had bigger things in store which I wasn’t completely prepared for. Like trouble with locations, hassles with getting police permits. But with the support of my actors, cameraman and special effects artiste, I could overcome the obstacles and finish the film.”